TASHKENT (Reuters) - A court in Uzbekistan convicted an Uzbek-born U.S. citizen for links to militant Islam and calling for the government’s overthrow, but imposed only a $67 fine for the almost 20-year-old offences.
Zokir Aliyev, 46, an American citizen since 2014, was detained on June 16 by Uzbekistan’s state security service on suspicion of belonging to an Islamist militant group.
He was freed after six days in detention and then stood trial in the former Soviet republic that has traditionally been tough on Islamists after an insurgency in the 1990s.
The Uzbek Supreme Court’s press office said on Wednesday that a provincial court had convicted Aliyev of publicly calling for the toppling of the government and participating in an extremist group.
But it said the court imposed only the small fine based on a multiple of the official minimum wage as of December 1999 when the alleged offence occurred.
No further explanation was given. But the Uzbek criminal code says the punishment for such offences can be as mild as a fine, or a fine plus prison time.
Aliyev, who could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, earlier denied any involvement with the militant Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and said he had only taken part in some Uzbek opposition activist meetings in Turkey in the 1990s.
Uzbekistan’s state security service said via the state news agency UzA last month that Aliyev had been on its wanted list since 2005 over suspected affiliation with the IMU.
IMU fighters fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan after retreating from their home country and the intelligence service told UzA they suspected Aliyev had trained there.
According to what appears to be Aliyev’s Facebook page, which gives his name as Zokir Ali, he has lived recently in the U.S. state of Virginia and studied at the University of Nevada.
The U.S. embassy in Tashkent declined comment on his case, citing privacy concerns.
Reporting by Mukhammadaharif Mamatkulov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Mark Heinrich